Doncaster Knights 18-38 Bristol Rugby.
The Knights put in a much improved display against unbeaten league leaders Bristol Rugby with a performance that was worthy of at least a competition point but sadly left the game empty handed.
In what was arguably Doncaster’s best forty minutes of the season, the Knights went into the break trailing just 10-13 having matched Bristol in all departments during the first half. Unfortunately, they could not maintain the levels late on as the visitors drew from their depth of quality to end the game with a winning margin of twenty points.
Bristol looked sharp from kick off and an early barrage of attacking play quickly drew a mistake as the Knights pack entered a ruck illegally deep in their own half and Irish international Ian Madigan opened the scoring. 0-3.
Donny’s reaction was superb as they looked to test the visitor’s illustrious back line with the likes of winger Curtis Wilson and full back Cameron Cowell asking questions when permitted space out wide.
It was following a Cowell break that the Knights registered the game’s first score.
A smart chip forward and good work at the ruck brought a penalty that was kicked to touch deep in the Bristol half. The Knights could not secure possession but an Alex Shaw charge down on the Madigan clearance bounced into the path of Tyson Lewis. The winger got to within a yard of the visitor’s line before being pulled down and, following a couple of quick pick and go carries, Matt Challinor barged over to score. Humberstone added the extras from out wide; 7-3.
The lead didn’t last long as Bristol produced a fine response to conceding.
A smart series of attacks almost opened up space for Jordan Williams but a long pass towards the winger was off target. Play came back for a penalty however, Madigan stuck it in the corner and the Bris pack rumbled quickly to drive hooker Jason Harris-Wright over the line.
After the Bristol try the game really began to open up and, whilst the visitors looked ominous when allowed to generate momentum, the Knights also looked bright on the attack and created a handful of opportunities that could have ended in scores but didn’t
A scrum penalty gave Humberstone a chance to draw the Knights level which he gladly accepted then on the stroke of half time Madigan nudged Bristol back into the lead following a high tackle offence. 10-13.
There was plenty to be optimistic about going into the change of ends but ten points for the visitors quickly after the restart put Pat Lam’s men firmly in the driving seat and Donny could not recover.
After Madigan and Humberstone exchanged penalties Rhodri Williams finished a fine bit of attacking play for Bristol’s second score. Jordan Williams charged down the right hand side before producing a fine chip forward, this was fielded by Mat Protheroe who found Williams on his inside and collected to sprint away. Madigan’s conversion made it 13-23.
A further penalty Madigan penalty extended the lead to 13-points on 56 minutes meaning that the next score really needed to go the Knights way if they were going to stand much chance of mounting a comeback. Unfortunately, it didn’t and the visitors produced a replicate of their first score for Harris-Wright to grab his second.
The Knights attacking threat remained constant throughout the game and they breached the Bristol line for a second time with quarter of an hour left to play. Curtis Wilson was the man to get it after Will Owen had done well to fight through a gap and spin possession right. Wilson still had plenty to do though and finished well, bouncing a would be tackler out of the way to score.
Moments later Wilson was sin binned for a high tackle and Bristol made the man advantage count to score a fourth, bonus point, try. From a centre field scrum they ran it blind and the imposing frame of Alapati Leiua steamed over in the corner for the score.
The Knights rallied one last time but could not add to their total and shortly after Matt O’Grady brought proceedings to a close.
Another loss for the Knights but a far more positive performance than in recent weeks and hopefully something to build on going into the British and Irish Cup next week.
Knights; 15) Cameron Cowell, 14) Curtis Wilson, 13) Mat Clark, 12) Will Owen, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Simon Humberstone, 9) Michael Heaney (Tom James 68’), 1) Richard List (Owen Evans 43’), 2) Ben Hunter (Curtis Langdon 67’), 3) Joe Sproston (Colin Quigley 57’), 4) Matt Challinor (Adam Batt 68’), 5) Morgan Eames, 6) Alex Shaw, 7) Michael Hills ©, 8) Jason Hill (Jack Bergmanas 68’).
Replacements; 16) Jack Bergmanas, 17) Owen Evans, 18) Colin Quigley, 19) Curtis Langdon, 20) Adam Batt, 21) Tom James, 22) Declan Cusack.
Tries; Challinor 14’, Wilson 64’
Conv; Humberstone 15’
Pens; Humberstone 36’, 46’
Bristol Rugby; 15. Mat Protheroe; 14. Jordan Williams, 13. Will Hurrell (Siale Piutau 46’), 12. Tusi Pisi (Ben Gompels 78’), 11. Alapati Leiua; 10. Ian Madigan, 9. Rhodri Williams; 1. Soane Tonga’uiha (Ryan Bevington 49’), 2. Jason Harris-Wright, 3. Gaston Cortes (Nicky Thomas 49’), 4. Joe Joyce, 5. Chris Vui, 6. Sam Jeffries, 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Jordan Crane (c) (Jack Lam 47’).
Replacements: 16. Ben Gompels, 17. Ryan Bevington, 18. Nicky Thomas, 19. Jack Lam, 20. Andy Uren, 21. Billy Searle, 22. Siale Piutau.
Tries; Harris-Wright 20’, 62’ R. Williams 47’, Leiua 79’
Conv; Madigan 20’, 47’, 62’
Pens; Madigan 4’, 39’, 42’, 56’
Referee; Matt O’Grady